Department of Communication Studies

IDS Advisory Board

Adam Lewis:  Partner, Spinutech
Adam Lewis is one of three partners of web service agency Spinutech.  The company got its start in 2000 when Lewis and partners Marc Reifenrath and Cory Schmidt--all UNI students at the time--were  working out of their college apartments at the University of Northern Iowa to start a business after the dot com bubble had officially burst.  Their lack of experience was outweighed by their passion: they joined the local chamber, networked with the “older” crowd, and successfully peddled their content management system (named Spinternet), as well as their web design, web development, and web strategy services.  By 2003 Spinutech had moved into a downtown Cedar Falls office, and in two years they moved again (still downtown Cedar Falls) to facilitate their fast-growing company, opening up a Des Moines office in 2006 to better serve Des Moines clients.  Also in 2006, Spinutech saw a trend with online video, so they started River Run Productions to create testimonials, product demos, and other videos for the web. In 2007 the partners saw another opportunity to create a social media company, and Lava Row was formed in Des Moines to coach clients on how to play in the social web arena.

Andrew Van Fleet: Partner, Visual Logic Group
Andy Van Fleet is a Partner at Visual Logic Group, Inc.  Andy graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA with a B.A. in Graphic Design and a Business Minor in 1998.  In 1997, he began his career as a User Interface Designer at TEAM Technologies, an Internet services company in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In 1999, he became a Senior User Interface Designer at Minneapolis-based IT-Radar.com, an online IT services marketplace. In 2001, Andy founded Darning Pixels, Inc. a graphic and web design company which he grew to nearly 10 employees serving national and international clients. During the growth of Darning Pixels, he earned several notable awards including the Waterloo Courier's 20 Under 40 and SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2011, Darning Pixels merged with Visual Logic, a Cedar Valley based User Experience consulting firm. Visual Logic provides User Experience (UX) consulting to the agriculture and military industries. The company has grown to nearly 15 employees and 15 contractors, servicing both national and international clients. Visual Logic has recently earned a prestigious spot on the 2012 Inc. 500 list as one of America's fastest growing companies.

Kurt Vander Wiel: Partner, Visual Logic Group
As a graduate student at UNI, Vander Wiel started Visual Logic Incorporated, working with Deere & Company’s R&D department to research computer media applications. As Deere began to implement applications of Vander Wiel’s research, Visual Logic grew to 15 employees before being acquired by TEAM Technologies. Vander Wiel served as VP of internet services and technical lead for TEAM’s largest clients including Meredith Publishing, Sony, Principal Financial, Dow AgroScience, NK Seeds, Ertl Toys, and more. Later, Vander Wiel became VP User Experience for the internet start-up IT-Radar. The company connected IT service providers with online customers and grew through 85 employees and 20,000 members. TechRepublic acquired IT-Radar in 2000 and Vander Wiel became TechRepublic’s Director of User Interface. In 2005 Vander Wiel re-established Visual Logic and returned to his original role providing human factors consulting for John Deere’s research oriented Intelligent Mobile Equipment division. That work has once again led to User Experience implementation projects ranging from large equipment in cab displays, to web based logistical applications, to robotic military equipment interfaces. Visual Logic merged with Darning Pixel’s in 2011 and currently employs a staff of 10, with 10 additional full time contractors.

Emma Peterson: CEO, Tikly
Emma Peterson was managing the Iowa-based folk rock band, The Nadas, in 2011 and grew tired of seeing consumers shell out extra money in add-on fees when they bought tickets to a show in advance.  Exhorbitant add-on fees made people less likely to buy tickets in advance, which made it less likely that they’d talk the event up with their friends.  Artists also lacked control over ticket sales to their own performances.  Peterson and business partner Brian Hemesath’s solution was a new Web service they called Tikly, which allows artists and venues to provide a quality ticketing experience to their fans while saving them from the pain of excessive ticket fees.  Tikly’s end goal is to place the people who put on the show back in charge of how their tickets are sold.  Tikly’s concept is based on the belief that there is a real need for change in the ticketing industry, that buying tickets can & should be a lot of fun.  Based out of the tech incubator, StartupCity Des Moines, Tikly is growing rapidly. Most recently, Tikly was named one of the "Top Five Startups to Watch" by CNBC.

Spencer Albers: Interactive Product Manager, Mudd Advertising
Over the last three years at Mudd, he has worked with the company’s interactive team to design and develop online marketing and analytical solutions for Mudd’s thousands of clients.  He is passionate about crafting experiences that bridge technology, devices and design. Spencer graduated from Wartburg College with a B.A. degree in Communication Arts (Public Relations) and extensive study in the areas of communication design and business. While at Wartburg, Spencer created and managed The Circuit, a national award winning converged student media website. Over the course of two and a half years, Spencer spearheaded the redesign, strategy and growth behind several iterations of the site.

Nathan Wright: Founder, Lava Row
Nathan began his career in the advertising agency world, where he developed digital media strategy for clients of all shapes and sizes. His interest in social networks led him to entrepreneurship and the formation of Lava Row, where he helps large corporations and brands navigate the ever-shifting digital media space with emphasis on training, best practices and business value. In addition to his consulting work, he frequently speaks about technology topics at industry conferences such as South by Southwest, professional organizations and universities. In 2010 he taught Internet Marketing as an adjunct instructor at Drake University. Nathan is active in the Des Moines technology, start-up and entrepreneur community. He co-pilots Uppward, an iPhone travel application, as a side project. You can also find him blogging at nathantwright.wordpress.com.  Nathan graduated from Iowa State University in 1999 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. He once attempted to sell his soul on eBay, earning him 15 minutes of worldwide fame and mockery. He aspires to one day be distinguished enough to wear a monocle.

Stefan Egeberg: Founder, Fresk Interactive
Stefan specializes in conceptualizing and developing custom and pre-built solutions by using new and emerging technologies such as multi-touch, mobile development, and custom display surfaces. His company, Fresk Interactive, believes these technologies will re-shape the way we interact with our daily environment.  Before founding Fresk, Stefan worked as a designer for Smash (now called Raygun), a hip Des Moines T-Shirt print shop.  Stefan holds a BA in Graphic Design from Drake University.

Mariah Andrews: Digital Marketing Manager, Frontier Natural Products
Mariah brings more than 13 years of advertising and interactive industry experience to her position. In her present jobs, she combines her passion for green and organic living with her professional skills in digital communications. She manages websites that help people find and buy the natural and organic products they desire. Mariah is a self-proclaimed social media fiend. She’s received extensive social media training from the Public Relations Society of America’s New Media Boot Camp, and runs her own food blog, Green Swamp Soup.